Mandel’s Musings – Mets Season On The Brink

Published on: 7th August, 2010

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fred and omar
Mandel's Musings - Mets Season On The Brink  | read this item

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New York – It’s over, boys and girls. If you are a New York Mets fan, there are many clichés you can come up to describe another season of great disappointment and futility for your men in orange and blue.

You can kiss it goodbye.
The ship be sinkin’.
Wait till next year.
Nice guys finish last.
Goodbye Omar.
Goodbye Jerry.

Okay, enough of that but after another pathetic, heartless, spiritless performance from Mike Pelfrey and his teammtes in a rubber match 8-3 loss to the first-place Atlanta Braves tonight, this is a team that looks as shell-shocked as any Met team in recent history. And, that’s really going a ways since most Mets teams in recent history have overdosed on a bad bunch of shell-shock. The worst part of this is there’s still a third of the season to go.

Jerry Manuel looks and sounds just like his glassy-eyed, confused players, who made four infield errors tonight in this, the biggest game of the Mets dwindling season.

“It was bad, we didn’t play very well,” said Manuel. “We know that we’re a better team than that. We have to find a way to get back on that track of good defense and pitching. We can’t kick the ball around like that and expect to play late.”

For Manuel and these Mets, it’s certainly gotten late early in the season, once again. Didn’t this happen last year, as well, right around this particular time of the season?

Baseball organizations can be like 1980s U.S. economic policies. There really is a trickle-down effect. From Omar Minaya to Tony Bernazard (remember him?) and into the dugout with Manuel, there appears to be a terrible malaise among the leadership of this team. No one seems to have a handle on what exactly has gone wrong and no one is willing to take public responsibility for this mess.

Jeff Wilpon, having taken over the daily operation of the club from his father, Fred, doesn’t speak publicly, particularly when things are going poorly. It’s been a long while since the Mets have allowed Minaya to speak to fans through the media, given the general manager’s proclivity to butcher the english language and the public image of this organization with double-talk and confrontations with reporters.

But, I imagine Minaya too, has had that same shell-shocked look on his face since Wilpon, not exactly the Branch Rickey of the new millennium told him the Mets were in no financial position to acquire any helpful players for the stretch run of this season.

So, while the Phillies were picking up an ace in Roy Oswalt and the Yankees were efforting to shore up weak spots in their roster with Kerry Wood, Austin Kearns, and Lance Berkman, Branch, I mean Jeff Wilpon was saying, “uh, umm., sorry, but no, Omar. It’s just not in the budget.”

There has been a distinct lack of focus surrounding this team, from the top down, since the All-Star break. Maybe it is the result of the players seeing ownership’s inability or unwillingness to make any moves to help them win a pennant this season. Or, maybe the reality of the Mets talent base is showing exactly what and who they are.

Their record is now 54-55 and as Bill Parcells used to say, “you are what your record says you are.” The Mets are in fourth place in the National League’s East Division and who’s to say they can’t keep sinking even lower, past those poor patsies of Washington, the Generals, I mean, Nationals.

Pelfrey was starting the biggest game of his season tonight against the first place Braves. It may be a cliché but this was a must-win game. As the late George Steinbrenner once said about one of his young pitchers, Jim Beattie, who started an important late-season game in the 1970s but was knocked out early, “the young man spit the bit.” That old horse phrase describes a player who chokes under pressure.

You can now include Pelfrey as an official bit spitter.

Indeed, Pelfrey had a lot of help from Manuel, tonight. Jerry is a nice guy but when it comes to dugout strategy during the game, he isn’t exactly John McGraw. Or, Quick-draw McGraw. He might not even be Dr. Phil McGraw.

In the home fifth inning, with the Mets losing 3-2, the Braves put two men on base with Brian McCann coming up to the plate. The Mets had a lefty, Hisanori Takahashi warming up in the bullpen for just these sorts of situations. Instead, Manuel allowed the righty Pelfrey to face the left-swinging McCann at this most pivotal time of the game and possibly, of the Mets season.

McCann, in his four years as a big leaguer, has owned Pelfrey. The stats don’t lie. Coming into tonight’s game, he had a lifetime batting average of .441 (15 for 34 including six doubles and a home run) against Big Pelf. Didn’t Manuel and his staff have a small idea of how well McCann has hit against Pelfrey through the years?

McCann already had a home run and a double going into that fifth inning plate appearance. He promptly ripped into a Pelfrey meat ball, a straight fastball right over the plate for another double into the right field corner, scoring two runs and breaking open a game the Mets had to have.

“I need to step up and be better,” Pelfrey said. “Giving up five runs is not cutting it and I take responsibility for the game. I didn’t execute the pitches, tonight. Like every start, you think the same way. If you win, it’s good, If you lose, it’s bad.”

He didn’t come up with the big pitched game when he needed to. That’s what aces of pitching staffs do. Pelfrey, whose record fell to 10-6 after he had been 10-1, is proving not to be an ace. He doesn’t have an ace’s makeup and he doesn’t have an ace’s command of his pitches. Imagine the Mets pitching staff if they had picked up an Oswalt to share the top of the staff with Johann Santana, pushing Pelfrey back into his rightful, less-pressured number three starter slot? With R.A. Dickey and Jonathan Niese pitching as well as they have this season, perhaps Pelfrey would be even more comfortable in the fifth starter slot? No expectations there, other than trying to make it to the fifth inning.

“He gave up a run in the first but I throught he threw the ball well,” Manuel said. “His problem was with the two middle guys in their lineup, Jones and McCann. I thought the velocity was where he needed to be. He challenged people with his fastball.”

Which game was Manuel watching?

“We gotta right the ship,” Manuel said.

It may be too late to right a ship that appears to be sinkin’, Jerry. Manuel is a good guy who means well but as the saying goes, nice guys do finish last.

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